Rasl is a sci-fi series by Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone. I must admit that I lost interest in Bone fairly quickly. The art was great and the first two books I read were very funny indeed, but I seem to remember that subsequent volumes were much less amusing, with the focus shifting from humour to Lord-of-the-Rings-style fantasy, which isn’t really my sort of thing, and I gave up on the series long before the end. I think I may have been a bit hasty, and I’d be interested in giving Bone another chance now that it is complete and available in a variety of different formats, but I reckon I’d still lose interest after I’d got past the first couple of volumes and have to force my way to the end. Only eleven issues of Rasl have been released so far, and I may eventually lose interest in this series, too, but so far it seems pretty great.
The story starts with our hero, Rasl, travelling to a parallel universe to steal an original Picasso painting, and then inadvertently fleeing back to yet another parallel universe – a universe where things are much the same as they are on our world, except Bob Dylan releases records under his given name, Robert Zimmerman – rather than the universe he started in. Rasl is attacked by a lizard-faced man who shoots a hole in his purloined Picasso, and after following him back home, kills his prostitute girlfriend. This is not just a crime drama with a sci-fi twist, though, and we soon find out that Rasl is more than a common thief. The lizard-faced man is after the hidden notebooks of Nikola Tesla, which former scientist Rasl has in his possession, and the secrets hidden in these notebooks could destroy the universe. In some ways, these comics reminded me of Cerebus, back when it was still good – for me, Cerebus was at its best up until the end of Church and State – as Smith occasionally gives us large chunks of historical information which threaten to reveal the bigger picture, but just when we think we are going to find out what is really going on, the pace changes and Rasl begins a romance with an alternative universe version of one of his dead lovers, or else encounters some offbeat characters, such as the creepy little girl who may or may not be god, or else just has another long fight with the lizard-faced man. These comics are quick to read but the story unfolds slowly. If I had been reading these as they were released, with a long wait between issues, I may have gotten bored and given up, but read in one big chunk I found these comics thoroughly enjoyable and quite engrossing. And Smith’s art is fantastic, too. I mean, his art was great on Bone, but here it is even better, and it often made me think of the work of Jaime Hernandez, but with a touch of Paul Pope thrown in for good measure (and I don’t think I’m just saying that because Rasl himself looks a bit like photos I’ve seen of Paul Pope).
Cost: I actually downloaded these comics from Comixology, several weeks ago, when they were on sale. The first issue was (and still is) free to download and issues two to eleven were reduced from $1.99 to $0.99c each (they have since gone back up to $1.99 each). According to my credit card bill, then, these comics ended up costing me £6.29, which isn’t bad at all for eleven comics that would have cost me over £3.00 each to buy from my local comic shop. I read these on my iPod Touch, and enjoyed reading them that way, although it was difficult to flick back through them for review purposes – so I didn’t really bother, which explains any inaccuracies in this review – and my preference is still for printed graphic novels, even if I do prefer digital comics to printed periodical comics these days. I may continue to buy this series digitally, but I enjoyed reading this story in big chunks a lot and am tempted to start buying the slim-but-oversized collections that are available instead.